Go Brasil!!

June 25, 2010

Walking to the subway from my yoga place in Soho, I happened to pass Cafe Felix on West Broadway just as the second half of the Brazil v. Portugal game was beginning. I’ve watched futebol there before, four years ago, sitting at a table, eating lunch.  This time, the doors were flung wide open and there were people in Brazil yellow and green everywhere.  Someone even had a vuvuzela (sorry, can’t pretend I like them, it was annoying as hell.)  It was a super fun place to watch the second half of the game, and even though the final score was zero zero, the Brazilian Portuguese broadcast gave me saudades.  Valeooooo!



March 4, 2010

I’m sitting in our bedroom in Paulo and Edite’s apartment and a few minutes ago, there was tons of cheering, that’s pretty much continued.  You can here the futebol chants and Corinthians cheers and shouting through the open window.  It’s cool that Pacaembu Stadium is so close that you can feel the energy of the fans from here.

Um Bom Dia

January 27, 2010

Today wound up being a surprisingly great day.  I had coffee with Carina this morning, my Argentinean friend who lives close by.  She’s an amazing wealth of knowledge and has tips about Sao Paulo and traveling, cooking, nearly everything.  I was especially jealous that she just got back from Rio and Buzios and ate at Venga!, our favorite tapas restaurant on Rua Dias Ferreira.  She’s a brave soul for trying to recreate the octopus dish at home.  I wish I had the balls to tackle cooking octopus.

From there Scott and I headed to the Centro.  It felt like it had been a while since we went up there, and I had forgotten how cool the area is around the Bovespa and Sao Bento.

I met with Hans, the head of Cidades Sem Fome, now that he’s back from his vacation in the South of Brazil with his family, and we talked about the next steps of my involvement, which feels like something I have been waiting for for months now.  I’m excited about going forward, and super excited for him, as he let me know that the mayor of Recife wants him to begin building gardens in the Northeast. He has plans for the south of the country, and he also got approached by the Mozambique government, who are interested in adopting the project in Africa.  I really think his organization is incredible and I’m proud to be a part of it.

From there, Scott and I sat in a restaurant while it rained that had the coolest chair rail tiles.

You can’t see the tiles that well in the picture, but they were all different patterns in shades of black, white and grey.  From there we wandered around a bit and found ourselves at the Praca de Republica and the Edificio Italiano.  It’s one of the taller buildings in Sao Paulo and is known for its killer views of the city.  By lucky coincidence, we happened to be there while the top floor was open to the public from 3 to 4pm.

The view was staggering.  I know that I had written along with a post that featured a picture of the view from our apartment that the Sao Paulo skyline gave me anxiety.  I still get sort of anxious–there are just so many buildings, but having gotten to know this city a little better, I’m more just in awe of it.

The wavy building in the bottom picture is the Edificio Copan and was built from 1957 to 1966, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Carlos Alberto Cerqueira Lemos. It has 1,160 apartments, over 5,000 residents and has the largest floor area of any residential building in the world.

In a spur of the moment decision we decided to jump in a cab and head to the Museu do Futebol in the Estadio Pacaembu.  I don’t know why I expected a small museum–maybe because we’ve passed Pacaembu so many times on our way to Karen’s and Elen’s and Edite’s, or just because I knew it was tucked into the stadium, but it was incredible.  Brand new and super high tech, it had amazing interactive exhibits, took you through the great players, the different World Cups, the history of the game in Brazil. You could listen to announcers talk through the most memorable games and goals of all time. There was an area with a number of fooz ball tables set up in the different common soccer formations.  I was impressed.

After running and dinner, we’re just waiting for Obama’s speech.  I’m nervous for him, and hope that it goes well. Oh, also the other thing that happened today was I found out that my blog was nominated to be one of the top 100 Ex-Pat websites for 2010.  Starting February 1, I’m going to be pulling out every stop to get the most people voting for Menina na Rio as possible.  Seriously. Get ready.

Futebol Thievery

December 10, 2009

While Brazil was watching the futebol games (which Scott described in detail in a post earlier this week), tunnel thieves made off with $6 million.

This is the email that Scott sent to his friends describing yesterday’s soccer matches:

So I went to watch the final round of Brazilian soccer yesterday and it was really great. The system is sort of a cross between pre-world-series baseball and pre-conference-tournament college basketball: 20 teams in the first division play each other endlessly over the course of an eight month season; at the end, the top team is the Brazilian Champion. No playoffs– which I thought would be anti-climactic– in fact made for an unbelievably dramatic day yesterday. Entering the final round (in which every single match would be played concurrently at 5pm), the country’s most popular, glamorous team– Flamengo, from Rio– had a two point lead over three teams tied for second, of which two were high profile Sao Paulo teams and one was a high profile team but from a smaller city. A win is worth 3 points and a tie is worth 1, so a Flamengo win would guarantee them the title, but a tie or loss would open the door to any of the three teams within striking distance. Meaning that at least 4 concurrent games had championship ramifications.

So Brooke and I sat with about a million screaming Sao Paulo residents, on a sidewalk in an intersection of four bars each showing as many games as it could. Prominently represented were fans of the two high profile Sao Paulo teams contending for the championship, the major Rio team (many of whose fans live in SP), and fans of the other major Sao Paulo teams, there exclusively to cheer against the two Sao Paulo teams in contention. And the web of implications was unbelievably intriguing. If Flamengo lost, any of the other three teams could win the title by winning, but if more than one of them won, a series of tie-break procedures would be used, beginning with overall victories and ending with goal differential (meaning that all but the most diehard fans had to think very hard to figure out who’d win the title under various scenarios as they unfolded). Of the tied second place teams, the one who stood to win the first tiebreaker was the team called Internacional from a city called Porto Alegre, who had one more win entering the day than the two tied Sao Paulo teams. This became an extremely important detail because Flamengo was playing Inter’s in-city Porto Alegre arch-rival, a team whose captainactually said mid-week that he was not planning on playing the final match hard because he refused to help Inter win a Brazilian title. South American to the bone.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the standings, the bottom four teams would be relegated out of the first division entirely. Fighting for its first division existence was Botafogo, the team that I ruined by choosing to root for when I moved to Rio. In order to survive, Botafogo needed to beat Palmeiras, one of the two high profile Sao Paulo teams in contention for the title. I have to describe this as well, because a fight against relegation turns out to be far more dramatic than I ever would have expected. For the first time all season, Botafogo’s stadium was PACKED, dousing players in confetti and setting off so many firecrackers that the start had to be delayed like an Allen Iverson opening night in the Pat Croce era. The scene more closely resembled an NFL playoff game than it did an end of season contest for a losing team in any American sport. It was unreal. And this, I realized, was something entirely new that I had to experience– the reason that I became a Botafogo fan. To have one’s final game stuffed with importance even after a disappointing season doubles the amount of teams who can experience high drama at the end of a season. Having followed Botafogo all season, watching them hover just over or just under the relegation mark, this was going to be a resolution, not just a day in which the final game ticked off the schedule.

I’ll describe the action succinctly since I’ve already used up a lot of words. Flamengo’s opponent scored an early goal, sending the bars into a frenzy. Inter and Sao Paulo both went out to definitive early leads against lousy teams, while Palmeiras went to halftime surprisingly tied with Botafogo (0-0). With every goal, some contingent in the neighborhood went nuts and some other became despondent. Palmeiras and Sao Paulo fans were united in rooting against Flamengo; other Sao Paulo teams joined Flamengo fans in rooting against Sao Paulo and Palmeiras; Sao Paulo and Flamengo fans united in rooting for Botafogo against Palmeiras. In the second half, Sao Paulo and Inter continued to run away with their matches, but Flamengo scored the equalizer just before halftime and the championship winning goal in the 70th minute, sending 100,000 fans in Rio’s Maracana (the stadium that will host the 2016 opening ceremonies, and where Andrew and Amy saw Flamengo play this very championship-winning season) into complete bedlam. Picture all of the characters from City of God winning a Super Bowl for the first time in 17 years. Yeah.

And on the other side of the standings there proved to be a happy ending for my first season of Brazilian futebol: Botafogo scored two goals in the second half, survived a late answer-back, beat Palmeiras, and kept its place in the Serie A for 2010. The dogpile on the field for this moral victory was as big as the one in Maracana for the team that won the title. It was pretty cool.


December 6, 2009

Scott and I spent the afternoon at Posto 6, a bar in Vila Madelena, watching soccer games.  It was the last day of the Brazilian soccer season, and because of the league’s crazy points system, there are no playoffs and no championship game to determine the champion.  Instead, teams are given points throughout the season–none for a loss, one for a tie, and two for a win.  This afternoon, there were five games that mattered and four games that could affect who won.

The intersection of Rua Aspicuelta and Rua Mourato Coelho is fun, with low key bars on each of the four corners, tables spilling out onto the sidewalks.  The streets have been filled with people our age every time we’ve been there, and today it was particularly buzzy, with eruptions anytime anyone scored.  It was fun to watch, as wins and losses and ties all meant one thing or another, giving different teams a shot at winning.  Flamengo, Brazil’s Yankees, wound up winning–none of the possible upset scenarios played out, but it was definitely fun to be a part of the energy.

Ibirapuera and Futebol

December 6, 2009

I went for a run this morning–something that I was sort of intimidated by since the last time that Scott and I tried in October.  It mostly went really well.  It was sunny today, and warmish but with a breeze and without humidity.  I printed out a map and set off toward Ibirapuera.  It’s important to note that many of the streets in Sao Paulo are short, and they change names inexplicably, and things that make sense when you’re looking at a map are tricky when you’re standing at an intersection and don’t recognize any of the street names.  So with my map in hand I ran to the park past beautiful houses behind gates on leafy streets.  I ran around the side and bottom of the park, where tons of people were heading in for their Sunday runs, walks and bike rides.  I almost made it back flawlessly until I missed on turn and wound up on Nove de Julho by accident and had to navigate back.  A good start.

This afternoon is also the last game of the soccer season.  I think we’re going to head to Vila Madelena to watch the games.

I just had this piece “Twelve Ways to Experience Rio de Janeiro Like a Carioca” published on Matador.

Check it out…

A Return to Normalcy

August 30, 2009

Scott and I had a lovely, productive day.  We woke up, went for a six mile run to Copa, had some açaí, and set to work.  He commandeered the dining room table, covered it with draft lists and chose his fantasy football team.  I spent the afternoon exploring the world of urban agriculture while sitting on our narrow deck, feet propped up on a plastic chair while reading article after article on the internet.  We went for a walk on the beach in the late afternoon, had a snack, went to Devassa to watch Botafogo tie again, went to a wine bar in Jardim Botanico for dinner.  It feels settled.

We copped to homesickness. Not real homesickness, but missing little things, a richness of life that we had in the US that we don’t have here.  It’s so pleasant, so easy, but not full.  We think it would be different in Sao Paulo, it was definitely not the case in New York, where we had tons of friends and family around, and would not be the same in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, maybe San Francisco.  We keep all of this in mind as we think through the next months, the next years, trying to figure out how this goes, what happens next.

Countering With Culture

August 11, 2009

Yesterday was my work-shop day and today was far more cultural.  Yesterday ended with a lovely visit to Paulo and Edite’s, and then we went to Scott’s cousins house for dinner. It was wonderful for so many reasons–to be in a house, to have someone cooking for us, to have easy conversation with family, to learn more about Brazil and to practice our Portuguese (kind of, since their English is perfect), to get to know them better, to see Andre’s pictures with Kiss, Lula, and ACDC.  We capped off the night by going through Andre’s truly incredible collection of autographed futebol jerseys (with Shaq and Magic Johnson jerseys and a Mohammed Ali signed boxing glove thrown in).  Beginning with Pele in the late 1960s and early 1970s until now with Kaká and David Beckham, there were probably fifty or more uniforms from the Brasil National team, the different World Cups, and every Brazilian team.  It was definitely something to see, and an important dose of Brazilian futebol culture.

This morning I went for a run to orient myself a little better in this city (very helpful) and went to the Museo de Arte de Sao Paulo.  The building itself is cool– a box elevated above the busy Avenida Paulista (swooshing by in the picture.) 

The galleries were mostly in transition (which explained why they didn’t charge me admission), and from there I went to explore the Conjunto Nacional down the street, which houses one of the most prolific bookstores I have ever seen.

IMG_0118 It was like a literary funhouse, with a real cafe, not a stupid Starbucks, like in Barnes & Noble (and I’m not just saying that because this is Brazil).  There was another Livraria Cultura across the way that was filled with beautiful and unusual coffee table books, art volumes, cookbooks.  I liked these old school editions of classics.  IMG_0122The Conjunto Nacional was incredibly cool, too.  There was a giant spiral up the middle, like the Guggenheim in New York, and the packed center area had an exhibit of all of International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) winners (including the Havaiana store, as mentioned in yesterday’s post).  It was super cool.

Scott’s cousin Karen and I had lunch at Hebraica, their Jewish club–an expansive campus with every imaginable sports facility, restaurants, a library, a theater.

I’m quickly falling in love with Sao Paulo, the massiveness of it, the way the neighborhoods fit together, the juxtapositions.  Some of the streets are leafy and beautiful, and there are mysteriously glamourous houses beyond high walls, and small shops and restaurants that surprise you.  Rio is outrageously beautiful, but Sao Paulo has much more depth.

Soccer and ties

July 19, 2009

We just went to Devassa, a local bar, to watch an inner city soccer rivalry, Botafogo v. Flamengo.  Botafogo has had a rough go of things this season (I’m learning about all of the different leagues, etc. and Scott has become a serious Botafogo fan), and it looked like they were going to win for the majority of the second half, but alas, with just a few minutes to go, Flamengo scored, and the game was tied, 2 to 2.  Soccer itself is growing on me slightly, I can get into watching it, but really, all the ties are so middle wiggle, so mediocre.  To invest the time to watch an hour and a half of a pretty damn boring sport (I only watched the second half, in all fairness) to have it end in a tie is so neither here nor there.  It stinks.  I’ll try to curb my complaining about overtime in American sports, at least someone wins at the end.

The benefit of sitting at a bar to watch soccer games is watching young Brasileiros interact with one another.  From an anthropological standpoint, it’s great.  They’re super affectionate and physical, greeting each other so warmly with hugs and kisses.  It just looks so fun to be a Brazilian 20-something.  I have visions of us speaking Portuguese fluently and sitting there with all of our friends, erupting in glory when Botafogo wins.

Futebol and Cubans

June 25, 2009

After a quite successful day jailbreaking and unlocking iphones (which required running around Leblon in the rain until we found our Claro savior) we were starving.

On the Rua Dias Ferreiras we were looking for some place to eat around 5pm, which isn’t really a time that people eat here, they eat a big lunch aroudn 1 or 2pm, and then a late dinner, so most of the restaurants were empty.  There was one filled with men, which turned out to be a cigar shop and bar, where there were about two dozen men smoking real Cubans watching Brazil play South Africa in futebol.  It was quiet, and we ordered some water and food and looked around.

The tables were big, one surrounded by fifty-something lounging men, dressed in suit pants and blue buttondowns had a bottle of Johnny Walker Black, a silver ice bucket with tongs, and a few glasses.  The bottle of scotch had something like a tape measure running along the side, saying, presumably, drink what you like, what you will, and we’ll settle it up after.  A few others had similarly quiet, concentrating men, drinking bottles of vino tinto, and a waiter, in kakhi pants, white shortsleeve shirts and panama hats poured glasses of champagne.  All sips were taken quietly, so as not to create the faintest ripple in the liquids all around, or disturb the smoke rings floating through the space. It’s funny to see a bar filled with all men sipping daintily at the bubbly.

With two minutes to go in the game, Brazil scored, goaaaaaaaaal, and the bar erupted, only to fall back into its equalibrium as the players interviewed after the final seconds ticked out.